Title: Die Hard 2: Die HarderDirector: Renny Harlin
Staring: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Sadler, Art Evans, William Atherton, Franco Nero, Dennis Franz, Fred Thompson, John Amos, Reginald VelJohnson, Tom Bower, Shelia McCarthy, Robert Costanzo, Robert Patrick
Plot: Set two years after the events of the first film, it is Christmas Eve and John McClane (Willis) is waiting to pick up his wife Holly (Bedelia) from the airport when terrorists lead by Colonel Stuart (Sadler) take over the air traffic control system as part of their goal to rescue drug lord and dictator General Ramon Esperanza (Nero) currently being extradited to the United States. Now McClane finds himself in a race against time to stop Colonel Stuart before the planes circling overhead including his wife’s plane run out of fuel.
Review: It was never going to be easy to follow up a classic like the original “Die Hard” but you have to commend Renny Harlin for trying in what would be the first in a chain of action movies he would go on to direct from here, as he picks up the directorial reins from John McTiernan while working from a screenplay based on the novel “58 Minutes” by Walter Wager, adapting the story to incorporate key characters from the first film into the story. Still the fact that it is adapted from a story by a completely different author than the original doesn’t change anything, especially as it seems that little has changed for McClane since the last time we saw him, having now returned to a sense of normality since the events of the first film, he is still the same foul mouthed LA, wise cracking cop he was before and it is really more down to bad luck that he once again finds himself caught up in another plot, especially when all he wants to do is pick his wife up from the airport rather than play the hero again. Still despite possibly being a credible source for reporting a terrorist plot going down, McClane still faces an almost impossible task of trying to convince any of the airport authorities, especially Airport police captain Lorenzo, who is played on top abusive form by “NYPD Blue” lead Dennis Franz and whose control over the airport resources essentially leaves McClane a lone hero once more.
While it is essentially more of the same Harlin still makes the most of this new setting, by mainly ensuring that he shoots up as much of it as possible, while throwing in a couple of exploding airplanes for good measure, but then what is the point in using the airport setting if you’re not going to make planes explode? Harlin while at this point in career still inexperienced as an action director still shows a lot of confidence here, crafting some original set pieces such as a shoot out on the baggage carousels aswell as an equally thrilling snowmobile chase, while keeping the plot as tight as possible as he slowly unveils the Colonels plan, which is none the less ballsy if not more so than the one used by Hans Gruber and his team in the first film. Still this is one of the many joys this film provides, especially when the Colonel has seemingly got every possible move planned out in advance, meaning that the films plot plays out like a well thought out thriller than an action movie, as Harlin proves that you can have clever plotting without sacrificing balls to the wall action.
It is nice to see that Harlin here also chooses to go with a more traditional badass villain than trying to pull off another cerebral villain like Hans, something essentially highlighted by the first time we see the Colonel who is practicing martial arts in the nude (Not sure if this make him more badass or not), something which bizarrely only gets used in the final showdown after this first introduction, while the rest of the time he is happy to just shoot people rather than pull off any more cool looking moves. Still this is not to say that he is some kind of knuckle dragger, as he like Hans processes a keen strategic mind only he’s more than happy to get things done himself rather than relying on his minions to do his dirty work and Sadler really embodies this character so that his constantly cool demeanour is easily believable thanks to Sadler’s performance, though sadly he only gets minimal screentime with McClane and none of the radio taunting that we got with Hans and something that was noticeably corrected with the next film. Equally noticeable is the fact that the second main badguy General Ramon is treated as though he is a key player, only to then be given little to actually do, other than shadow the Colonel and generally seem menacing. Infact his early reunion with the Colonel only seems to be so that Harlin can cram in what is almost a replay of McClane’s suicide jump from “Die Hard” as he has him using an ejector seat to escape an exploding plane in what is both a great and slightly gratuitous action sequence.
The action sequences on the whole are all about taking what worked in the first time and applying it to a larger canvas, so an exploding APC becomes an exploding plane while the claustrophobic vents and corridors of the plaza are now replaced with the vast expanse of the airport in which anything can happen anywhere within. As a result Harlin is clearly keen to make the most of the bigger scale he has to work with yet thankfully doesn’t lose focus on what worked in the first film and hence McClane still cracks one liners to help relieve the pressure he finds himself under, while we also get several returning characters such as Al (Veljohnson) who sadly given more of a cameo appearance here, especially after the key part he played in the first film it would have been nice to see more of the same here, but instead McClane gains a new sidekick in the form of Marvin the Janitor (Bower) who serves as McClane’s main info source thanks to him unlimited supply of airport blueprints. Even more bizarre is the reappearance of sleazy reporter Dick Thornburg (Atherton) who while not an unlikable appearance, it is still one which leaves you wondering why? Did anyone really like his character so much that they wanted to see more in the sequel?
Despite outgrossing the original upon its release, for some reason this film has never had the same cult appeal as the original, which is something of a shame considering that it gives you more of the same only on a bigger scale. Still it is hard to say that the lack of a memorable bad guy doesn’t affect the film, especially after the memorable bad guys of the first film right down to the lowliest grunt in their ranks, but this is a minor complaint especially when this film is just as much fun as the original and well worth a revisit or a double feature with the original.